For days now, I’ve seen so much filling up my facebook feed pertaining to the issue with Chick-fil-a, and I’ve engaged in so many discussions/debates about it, that I honestly just want to hang my head in my hands and sigh.
I guess the most frustrating thing about all of this is the way people are mistaking our disapproval as having to do with the freedom of speech. As an American citizen, the freedom of speech is something I deeply value, and I respect the Cathy’s rights to speak as they please on all matters, even the matter of homosexuality. That is not what bothers me, or many of the others who have decided to stop showing financial support to them or their company through purchases of their products. My issue is where that financial support then goes.
You see, the Cathys donate millions of dollars to anti-homosexual organizations, and while I completely respect their right to do with their profits as they please, I am equally within my rights to choose to contribute instead to the profits of those companies that take action more in line with my own personal beliefs. Being an informed consumer means I have to understand that any further contribution to CFA would mean that I either agree with where my money would then go (which would be akin to me donating to those causes myself) or I just choose to be apathetic and uncaring about the information I have received - neither of which I am comfortable with.
But what needs to be understood is that our choice to from now on refrain from contributing to their establishment, and therefore their causes and agenda, is in no way an attack on their rights or their opinions. It’s not us banging down their doors, demanding for their establishments to be shut down. It’s merely using our rights as informed consumers to take our business elsewhere - just as someone might do if they disagree with the ingredients of the chicken being served (which I can understand, with anti-foaming agents, etc). It’s not some sort of hateful display, it’s not an “intolerant” act meant to disrespect Mr. Cathy or his opinions.
So calling us intolerant for choosing to no longer support CFA is ironically hypocritical, when compared to the uproars over JC Penny hiring Ellen, and other recent issues we’ve seen groups of Christians boycott and protest, even with the opinion that such action is “Christian duty.” I’m not demanding he changes the way he runs his business, I’m not making judgments about his salvation or his lifestyle or even his Christian identity - as we’ve seen done by Christians in this (my own Christian-ness has been challenged (something I’m used to by now, haha) in debate because of my views of the issue, and of homosexuality) and those other mentioned issues. I’m merely choosing to take my business elsewhere.
Basically, it comes down to this : if you’re going to claim that his stating his opinion, and perhaps even donating money where he does, if you were aware of that, doesn’t constitute hate, discrimination, or intolerance, how can you turn around and declare that those of us who disagree with him are intolerant or hateful just because we won’t buy from him anymore? It’s not like we’re contributing money towards the purpose of denying him his right to run his business as he pleases - you know, like he does in the case of homosexual rights….
I grew up in North Carolina, where currently there is much debate over “Amendment 1,” which, if passed, would add the ban against same sex marriage (it’s already illegal in the state of North Carolina) to the State’s constitution, as well as opening the door for other awful side effects. But it is the aspect of religion that I want to address here.
Anyone who has read my previous post on homosexuality knows already that I am an advocate of homosexual equality and, based on my understanding of the original language, do not believe that the Bible considers homosexuality to be the sin that people claim it to be. But I think there is another issue here as well…
And that is, why is it our business to tell others what they can or cannot do based on our religious beliefs (whatever the issue may be), especially in a country that believes in religious freedom and equality?
Is it right or fair because right now we’re (Christians, or whatever group we may be discussing, depending on any given religious issue) the “majority?” Would it be fair, or right, if someone else were the majority and were using their majority status to limit our own freedom to act on our convictions and beliefs? How many people using religion to justify depriving homosexuals their rights would just lay back and accept it if it our rights were voted away by people of a different belief just because there are more of them? Isn’t this part of what the whole point of freedom of religion was supposed to circumvent?
(Though, I’m of the opinion that things that pertain to the rights of citizens shouldn’t even be up for a vote, because rights are meant to be inalienable, so people shouldn’t have to win a vote to be granted something they should already have. So this isn’t even about voting or asking to not vote, etc, as I think it’s wrong that it’s up for vote at all.)
My main pint is: didn’t God Himself grant us free will? So why do we insist on denying others the freedom to decide for themselves? Shouldn’t we merely say that we believe someone shouldn’t do something (speaking generally, not specifically, obviously), instead of insisting they *may* not?
Are we called to witness (share, teach, reflect, etc) the “truth” (whatever we believe it to be on a given religious issue), or to enforce it?
Was our system of government even intended for such a cause or was it intended to prevent it?
Is it our job to police or control or neighbors, or to love them?
Does being anti-someone or something promote love? Isn’t it possible to disagree without turning it into some kind of battle to be won, where the person ends up being some sort of collateral damage in our zealous efforts to stomp out “evil” instead of focusing our energy on cultivating love and truth?
Does allowing others the room/freedom to disagree with us or to act in ways we don’t agree with in any way inhibit or infringe upon our own rights to believe and act as we choose?
The list of questions could go on and on, but the point remains the same:
If God intended for us to have the freedom of choice, why do we deny that freedom? If our government is also established on freedoms why do we attempt to defy them? Are these efforts really necessary or compatible with what we are called for in this life of faith or are they a distraction from the real point, the real work we’re intended for? Are they really something that provide spiritual nourishment or growth, or do they perhaps stunt us, trapping us in one stage of progress on the path towards Christ-like emulation?
Is homosexuality really such a “threat” to Christianity, or is Christianity (in this kind of situation) really its own worst enemy?
…though that’s another discussion entirely, I guess…
I have been asked how, since I reject so much of the “traditional” opinion, I can “justify” calling myself a Christian. I understand that many find my unorthodoxies unsettling, even incompatible with the faith they claim. And so, for those people, I will attempt an answer, whether I believe they will be satisfied with the answer or not.
I recognize that, to many, there are certain beliefs that are considered mandatory if one so wishes to consider themselves part of the Christian family.This isn’t something I personally adhere to, not when I recognize all of the different versions and strains of Christianity (there are approximately 38,000 denominations existing just today - and that’s not counting all of the various strains and sects of Christianity that have existed throughout Christian history that aren’t included in today’s numbers) with different, even, at times, conflicting beliefs, as well as the various arguments that have existed from the beginning of Christian history on issues such as the nature of Jesus, the concept of the Trinity, and so much more (some of which I’ll most likely end up writing on in the future). Understanding that, as well as the how fallacious it is to insist that there actually existed one, unified Early Christian Church (Harvey Cox’s The Future of Faith gives a great look into said fallacy), I instead choose to break it down to the lowest common denominator, the one thing that absolutely *every* strain and form of Christianity *is* able to agree on : Jesus himself.
I have said before that my definition of a Christian is :
“someone who believes in the person of Jesus, the message of love, compassion, and humility shown through his life, the thought that he reveals to us the character of God, Who is love and compassion, and who believes that living by his teachings and following his example can bring us closer to God as well as our fellow man.”
Though I recognize that said definition may leave out some of the more conservative or fundamentalists who stress a more vengeful (and therefore not so loving or compassionate) side of God, the basic gist of my definition is someone, anyone, who’s faith is founded in the person and message of Jesus, however one may understand them.
And I *do* believe in and follow the person of Jesus and the message he taught - I just happen to understand it differently than many of the other Christians out there, though not all, I’ve found - as I continue in my religious “education”, I constantly realize that there are more of us out there than one would initially believe.
(Authors like the aforementioned Harvey Cox, as well as those like John Shelby Spong, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and Philip Gulley come to mind, though I don’t believe exactly as they do, it is nice to have others represent a not so orthodox side of Christianity)
Not only do I believe in the person and message of Jesus, they make up the *very foundation* of my faith. I am *firmly* rooted in the person of Jesus and the message he gave us, the Bible that came to express that message (whether or not I believe it does so infallibly, think it is meant to be understood literally, or interpret it the same way others might), the God of love and compassion he devoted his life, and death, to serving, and even the Christian faith itself (even if I prefer to recognize and consider *all* the various forms and branches within the Christian tradition and its history, and not limit myself to the more well known, “accepted,” or “approved” strains). And while it is true that I feel the message Jesus gave us can also be found echoed in the teachings of others, and occasionally pull from those others, their attributed texts, and the faiths founded on their teachings in my spiritual cultivation and understanding, it does not change that the Jesus is *the* example upon which my faith is formed, that *he* is the one I am most familiar with, the one in whom I am most deeply rooted.
As well, with Christianity being the religion through which I was raised, the means through which I came to understand faith, God, humanity, etc, I must admit that I see things through a Christian perspective, in terms of vocabulary, perception, understanding, etc. I may reject what many consider to be “traditional (or “required”) doctrine”, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not rooted, in perception and in way of understanding/processing information, in the Christian tradition. Christianity is the lens through which I understand life, humanity, divinity, even other religions.
I must recognize and admit that, even when I study other religions, I do so through a Christian mindset, as it is my ground of reference, if that makes sense. I don’t understand them as their followers understand them, though I do try to understand them in a way that is as unbiased and as honest to their actual intent as possible. I *have* to admit that my Christian perception causes me to look at them in a certain way, to make certain connections, to frame the information in a certain understanding or frame of reference. My *entire worldview* is based upon the Christian tradition. Therefore I couldn’t convert to any other religion (believe me, a few years ago I had a crisis of identity, afraid I couldn’t call myself a Christian anymore, only to realize that Christian is all I could *ever* be), since I would merely be following a Christian understanding/adaptation of that faith. Not that I don’t think the various faiths are good enough on their own, I just have Christian perceptions/themes/ideas/etc I wouldn’t be able to leave behind, if that makes sense.
It’s not just Jesus or a Christian mentality, though - I also am rooted in the Bible. Many may feel my beliefs are unbiblical, but I believe they are supported by the Bible. I just read the Bible differently; understand it differently (as will be addressed in an upcoming post). I *am* following and applying the Christian holy text, it *is* the text I read most and lean on the most, given I am most familiar with it, the text I compare others to, another way my perception and ground of reference is framed. I may not be a literalist, or believe it is the “actual” word of God, but I do believe that one can find truth within its pages, and rely on it more than any other text in my walk. Yes, I read other texts and believe those other texts (and their respective faiths) contain truth. But I *am* rooted in the person of Jesus, his message, and the texts and tradition that surround him. That is the context in which my worldview and faith are framed.
My ultimate goal is to follow Jesus and his message (as I understand it), to emulate him and live his teachings in a visible way in my life. Whether one would wish to deny it of me, I am still a Christ-follower, still strive to be Christ-like.Christian is the strongest self identifier I have, the deepest part of who I am….
I just look at the *whole* picture – the different strains and ways of understanding Jesus and his message, the different factors (like the changes in ideas like “belief”, the concept of rite vs right, the Jewishness of Jesus as well as the political side of his message, archaeological/scientific evidences and how they relate to how I understand the text, etc, etc), the different influences on Judaism and Christianity and the Jewish/Christian thoughts/beliefs, as well as changes in Jewish/Christian belief/opinion. I don’t just limit myself to what this more conservative, fundamental, literalist version of Christianity has to say, especially since this version of Christianity is one that is so new (literalism and fundamentalism being relatively recent ways of understanding Christianity will also touched on in another post).
I don’t believe that Jesus came to establish the kind of required belief that we see today, I don’t believe orthodoxy (in terms of “right belief” or an “accepted way of following Jesus”) would have been something spoken or established by him. The Christian faith today, I believe, would be unrecognizable to him. He spoke against legalism, dogmatism. Called us to a standard of love and faith, which isn’t the same as belief.
I believe in studying what I can, as far back as I can, as much as I can, in order to try to come to a more original understanding of his teaching/message. I don’t believe in just taking the Bible at face value, assuming we can understand we know what he was trying to express without even taking the time to look at the original language or tradition. And I have devoted myself to digging as deep as I can, to getting to that original message, to what he *really* meant for us to understand.
And…. to be honest, I believe as I do because I believe it is *more* genuinely Christian (or, at least, what Christ intended) than the other interpretations and applications of the Christian faith and the message and teacher it is founded upon…
Whether or not one believes that it is doesn’t change the fact that it is *undeniable* that my faith and beliefs are *all* about Jesus and what he had to tell us, that I *am* a Christian - an earnest and sincere follower of Christ.
I’ll close with a phrase I may have used before in my writing, but one that I do truly feel sums up my faith and identity. And that is:
Christian, in my opinion, doesn’t imply an adherence to specific criterion of faith, but instead indicates a specific standard of heart, a criterion of love
And I do - I strive to live, and to love (God and His creation), like Jesus…..
(Up Next : This Unitarian’s Understanding of Jesus)
In one of my previous posts, I went into detail about what Christian Universalism is, but before I go on I’d like to give a quick overview of my personal beliefs, especially after my little digression in my most recent post, so that you know what kind of things to look forward to in my future posts, as I address many of the things I’ll mention here in more detail.
I want to start by clarifying my personal Universalist belief. Most Christian Universalists believe in universal salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (something I reject). I, on the other hand, believe instead that we are all children of God, destined to return to Him through His own decision and love and grace and intent. I reject any alternative, such as hell. Such alternatives, or the idea of anyone being denied or overlooked when it comes to God’s love and grace, contradicts the nature I believe is characteristic of God - one of love and compassion.
Because I reject the idea that God works through some sort of intermediary, like Jesus’ “atonement” on the cross, and because I dont’ believe in the deification of Jesus (remember, I did say I am a Unitarian Christian), I dont’ believe that Christianity is the only path through which one can come to know God or cultivate a relationship with Him, or even benefit spiritually from. I see all religions and faiths as offering that cultivation and relationship.
That being said, my beliefs aren’t just universal, but also pluralistic, and therefore syncretic. I don’t believe that any figure or religion has a monopoly on God’s love and grace, or on a relationship with or understanding of Him. I see all paths as equally valid ways of understanding and relating to the Divine, ways that can be quite compatible, and even incorporate teachings and ideas from various faiths and teachers.
I tend to be quite humanistic in my personal beliefs. I believe that all of the various faiths can contribute to cultivating our humanity, and that what makes up humanity are the characteristics of love, compassion, selflessness, altruism, wisdom, etc, etc. These are the things I believe make up God’s own character, and this is how, IMO, we are “made” in His image. So I believe that a fully realized humanity is the closest we will see of Divinity while still on this earth, and people like Jesus and the Buddha, etc, are great examples of that. It is the “God in us”, you could say, the way in which we are “Christ-like”… But I dont’ want to go into any of these points too much, because I dont’ want to repeat myself when I go into detail later, so I’ll move on now, lol.
I’m also quite Deistic, in that I don’t believe God is actively involved in human affairs or the events of this world. Instead I tend to believe more in the idea of a Prime Mover, who watches this world, but is removed from it in a way where He does not interfere with laws of nature (so I reject any belief in miracles, like the Resurrection) or the idea of free will (free will has to be completely free, or it isn’t free at all, IMO), or act to change or influence anyone or any event.
When it comes to how I understand the Bible, I’m a non-literalist who believes in looking at the entire context (historically, archaeologically, scientifically, the context of the language (original if I can find it), etc, etc). I don’t believe in angels or demons or the devil. I don’t believe in any sort of “end of times” or “Second Coming” (at least not a literal Second Coming, though I have found a way look at it metaphorically). And I reject a lot of the other “traditional” interpretations or understandings of Christianity and the Bible.
I don’t believe faith is about believing the right way, but instead about the journey, the process, the growth. Each of us has to find the way that most benefits our individual and spiritual needs. God is big enough to meet us where we are, to be available to all whatever way they understand and relate to Him. Truth is transcendent enough to be found in any of the packages it is wrapped in, IMO.
And, lastly, my beliefs all come down to love (which ties into the whole humanism thing, I guess). I believe in a God of love, Who calls us to love. Whatever the question, my answer is love, and if something is incompatible with the law of love, I reject it.
So there we have it, a (kind of) brief (for me) overview of some of the main points of my personal faith, and a little preview of the many topics that are to come, if only I can find time to keep up with this blog like I’m wanting, lol - it’s hard with a three year old keeping me busy, especially since bed time has been a struggle lately, leaving me with hardly any free time to put the time into this that I’d like to.
But I certainly look forward to sharing and to hearing back if anyone wants to discuss further any of the posts that are (hopefully) coming soon.
I hope to see you there! :)
(Up Next : A Defense of My Faith)
I’ve recently had a few people question me regarding my position on homosexuality, so I’d like to take the chance to explain myself so that anyone who is curious can understand. Of course, this isn’t going to be an extensive resource, as I’m no scholar, but I think it will serve as at least a basic introduction to the arguments many of us have when it comes to homosexuality.
I personally do not believe homosexuality is a sin, or an “abomination” (especially how we understand the word today), and I fully and *adamantly* support the rights of not just homosexuals, but the entire LGBT community.
Having said that, I will go through the two parts of this issue - my religious understanding of homosexuality, and the more civil idea of human rights (focusing mainly on the idea of marriage) - and offer the best explanation I can manage.
I’d like to start with the religious side of things, beginning with the word homosexual/homosexuality itself.
Although most people who read the Bible will argue that the word “homosexual/homosexuality” *is* indeed included in its pages, the word itself does not exist in the original text of the Biblical manuscripts. In fact, the first printed use of the word wasn’t until 1879, coined by Karl-Maria Kertbeny (who was an avid human rights campaigner, and was arguing *against* anti-sodomy laws - source). So, if the word homosexual/homosexuality *isn’t* in the original manuscripts, what do those original documents *really* say?
If you dig into the original language of the text, you’ll come across words like qadesh, pederasty, andarsenokoitai. We’ll look at each of these in turn.
The word qadesh is a word we find all over the OT (special thanks to this website for help in locating the word throughout the text) - in Genesis (38:21 and22), Deuteronomy (23:17), First Kings (14:24, 15:12, 22:46), Second Kinds (23:7), Job (36:14), Hosea (4:14)…
Qadesh is the masculine form; the female version of the word would be quedeshaw.Originally, this word referred to prostitutes, especially in regard to Pagan temple worship. It wasn’t until the KJV was written that the word qadesh was replaced with the word sodomite (and many other translations use the original idea of prostitute instead of the KJV’s sodomite,), which at the time was meant to refer to any sexual practice deemed “unnatural” (thanks to this source for this information), which isn’t in line with the original meaning of the text.
The next word, pederasty, is also often referred to as sodomy, but refers specifically to male on male pedophilia, as well as sometimes to prostitution, ritual sex, rape…. Again, this is not something which refers to the consensual, monogamous homosexual relationships we see today.
(for more on the idea of pederasty, you can check out this source - though there are more)
The last word that I will go into, arsenokoitai, found in 1Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 2, seems to be a word invented by Paul, as no one seems to have used the word before him. The KJV translates it as “abusers of themselves with mankind” which was later replaced with the word homosexual, once the word was coined. But if Paul were referring to homosexuals, as they were understood at the time, he would have used the wordpaiderasste instead (thanks to this source for this section).
So what do “they” say Paul’s word is meant to mean? “They” give a few suggestions, from “homosexual offenders” (which doesn’t forbid homosexuality, but only refers to “homosexuals who commit sexual offenses”), to prostitutes involved in Pagan temple worship, masturbators (this was apparently the understanding of the word at the time of Martin Luther - same source as before), pedophiles, and even sex slaves (especially young boys).
I could go on, mention other translations and meanings, like how the word סריס (saris - or eunich) has been thought to be where some of the mentions of homosexual or “effeminate” may stem from, but I think I’ve given a basic understanding that even though many translations *use* the word homosexual, the text never *meant* to refer to homosexuals or homosexuality.
Now, wait a minute, I’m sure some of you are thinking - that may put a kink in some of the verses, but there is still that one, you know, the “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” THAT verse doesn’t use the word homosexual, and therefore can’t be guilty of the same mis-translations.
There are two ways I need to address this idea - firstly, the idea of what “lie with mankind as with womankind” means, and secondly the idea of what “abomination” means.
There are many arguments for what the “lie with mankind as with womankind” could mean, ranging from the idea of Pagan ritual sex, or the impropriety of using a woman’s bed for male/male relationships (as this source says (using this source for this whole section, too), only a woman’s husband was allowed in her bed), to the idea of subordination in male/female sexual relationships not being acceptable in male/male sexual relationships. The idea that the same prohibitions of sexual relationships with kin is also one that is argued - that male/male relationships are forbidden if the two are somehow related, much like the idea of other forbidden sexual relationships within one’s own family.
There are other ways of looking at it, but they are also listed in that source (and this one, and this one, as well), so I won’t just copy them here (I have too much more to cover), and I won’t go into supporting the ideas here - you can find support for them in the sources (these as well as others I’ve not listed). I highly suggest giving the sources a read-through. In fact, for these sources in particular, I suggest starting here, as they are all part of one source. :)
Anyway, I personally believe the context of the passages implies that they’re referring, not to homosexuality, but the sexual practices of the worship of Molech, which involved bestiality and male cult prostitutes, but I wanted to move onto the topic of “abomination”.
Most Christians believe the word “abomination” refers to sin, even though other things are considered abominations, such as mixing fabrics in clothing, or eating shellfish. The original meaning of the word referred more to ideas of ritual purity, as understood when considering the original word to’ebah. It dealt with the idea of what was ritually “rite” or “pure”, what was considered “taboo”, the idea of moral or ritual law, what was “ritually improper” (here’s a source if you like).
There’s always more, but I’m going to wrap up the religious part of this, just because I have so much more I’d like to have time for, but if you’re interested in reading more there are plenty of sources online for it - like this one, which I found to be quite in depth. I also highly recommend the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So”.
But I want to move on to the other side of the argument about homosexuality and homosexual marriage - the marriage side.
I’d like to start this portion by looking at the tradition of marriage within the context of history - especially within Christian history.
In summarization of a section in Owen Chadwick’s History of Christianity (pg 155-156), I think it’s important to know that before 1100 peasants and workers did not bother much with marriage, in terms of ceremony or ritual. If man and woman chose to live together they were considered married. Church services were not necessary, and it was something left up to the lay people, not a priest.
It was in the upper class, where money and property were at stake, where marriages were really formalized.
He goes on to also tell us that around the end of the Western Roman Empire both the Church and the lawyers wanted to witness people consent. So the priest was introduced as a witness, not because of any sort of religious role, but merely because he was believed to be the most responsible person in the community. There were issues, like how closely couples were related, whether the couple really consented, or if they were already married to other people, that the priest was trusted to determine. Chadwick tells us the religious function was an “additional asset”, only consisting of blessing the union in hopes it would help the couple be fruitful and bear children. Even with this involvement of the priest, though, services in a church were optional, and we are told not many of the common people opted for it.
It wasn’t until 1100, he tells us, that Church councils decided laypeople should not conduct marriages, even though he mentions that the ban was repeated even as late as the middle of the 14th century, indicating that it wasn’t exactly followed.
Likewise, the book I’m reading currently - Christianity : The Illustrated History (general editor Hans J. Hillerbrand) speaks (on page 95) of how the earliest evidence supports the idea of Christian weddings as domestic issues, where priests may have been invited guests. It speaks of how the wedding was understood to be a *civil* affair, with the priest merely giving a blessing to the pair, and how the more prominent role of religion - the priest/church - in marriage wasn’t really until 1100, though it goes on to claim that “only at the time of the Reformation did weddings in the West move into the church, though some Protestants rejected this, seeing marriage as purely a civil act.”
Skipping to page 125, the book speaks of Pope Gregory VII “profoundly” affecting marriage through his “major transformation in the Western church”, which led to the idea of marriage being regarded as a sacrament, reiterating yet again how “until relatively recent times” most marriages were “ones of social convention” without formal ecclesial ceremony.
Their writing shows us that marriage is not something that Christianity seems to have a monopoly on, and that its history as a religious ceremony isn’t a very long one. Given that, when we understand the history of marriage within the Christian faith, as well as the original language/context of the passages commonly used to support anti-homosexual mentalities, can we really deny marriage to homosexuals?
If you don’t buy that, if that isn’t enough for you, I have more. ;)
One of the great things about living in America is all of the freedoms and rights afforded to each and every one of its citizens - inalienable, undeniable rights granted to each and every one of us just for being Americans. One of these very rights is the freedom of religion.
So even if you (general you) were to reject my previous arguments and maintain the *religiously convicted* belief that homosexuality is wrong, those of us who don’t agree are free from having to worry about your convictions and beliefs being forced upon us, given how the government isn’t supposed to make any law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Meaning if you believe homosexuality is a “sin”, you’re free to that belief, but we’re free to disagree, and it would go against the very foundation of the idea of religious freedom to use the government to push your opinion onto those who don’t agree with you, or denying them the right to live as they please, according to their own religious convictions or personal beliefs.
And then there’s the idea that marriage is a right. Did you know that? It is, not just a right, but pretty much a *universally recognized* right. Just check out Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a Declaration the US has signed and endorsed.
Regardless of that, though, marriage isn’t seen as a religious issue in the United States - it’s regarded as a civil one. That’s why we go get marriage licenses, issued by the government. The religious aspect of marriage is an optional one, but the civil side of marriage is one that is (should be) available to *all* citizens. And to deny anyone this right because of their sexuality is discrimination - and discrimination based on reasons of religion or sexuality is not tolerated in *any* of the other areas of American life…
So I guess I just I fail to see how anyone should be allowed to deny someone else the right to live as they please. What other people do shouldn’t affect you; you should be able to live according to your convictions while leaving others to live to theirs (this makes me think of the controversies over divorce, birth control, or inter racial marriage, etc). So why can’t people just choose to apply their convictions to themselves, instead of expecting everyone else to live according to them too? That’s basically the whole point of religious freedom - “it only extends as far as your own nose” is the expression I’m most familiar with, implying that you’re free to believe however you please, but your beliefs can and should only apply to you and your life. No one should be forced to live according to the standards of another’s conscience or religious beliefs.
And before anyone accuses me of doing the same thing, I’m not trying to force anyone to vote for or support homosexual marriage - I actually don’t believe civil rights should be up for a vote. Rights are not contingent upon the majority’s approval, and I don’t believe in asking for approval for something people should be granted to begin with.
No, I’m merely attempting to explain where I’m coming from, what my reasoning is when it comes to the idea of homosexuality, and since I’ve given a basic overview of my stance on the issue I’ll leave you now (though with one last source to suggest - it really is a good one) to accept or reject any of what I’ve said. I just hope I’ve given you something to think about…
(up next : A Brief Overview of My Personal Faith)
In my previous, introductory, post, I identified myself as a Christian Universalist, and I’m sure that upon hearing the term many of you probably scratched your head in confusion. I can understand that not too many are familiar with this terminology – in fact, many probably feel such a term to be “oxymoronic”, considering the prevalent perception of Christianity as a purely exclusive faith.
But let me familiarize you with what, exactly, Christian Universalism is, and what it is about.
The first part (Christian) isn’t really that hard to understand, although what people typically understand about the word Christian is what makes the second part (Universalist) confusing.
Most people accept that being a Christian means to be Christ-like, to make the conscious effort and take on the conscious responsibility/obligation to be like Jesus, to follow in his example in being compassionate, loving, kind, gracious, etc. Most accept that it also implies some sort of discipleship in terms of a teacher/disciple relationship, that it indicates “following” the example and teachings of Christ, and having him, in some way at the center or head (or other equivalent) of one’s beliefs and one’s relationship with God.
So, I feel pretty reasonable saying that my definition of a Christian is someone who believes in the person of Jesus, the message of love, compassion, and humility shown through his life, the thought that he reveals to us the character of God, Who is love and compassion, and who believes that living by his teachings and following his example can bring us closer to God as well as our fellow man. And I also feel rather confident in expressing my belief that the main point is that Jesus shows us the Way in which God wants us to live (with love and compassion), the Truth about God’s character (that He is love), and a new Life full of meaning, purpose, and love for God and our fellow man.
But I don’t believe that there is a set standard of belief or doctrine when it comes to meeting the above definition. Christian, in my opinion, doesn’t imply an adherence to specific criterion of faith, but instead indicates a specific standard of heart, a criterion of love, if you will.
Given that, the second part seems a little less confusing.
Universalism, generally speaking, is the belief in the universal salvation/reconciliation of mankind, that God is love and that all of His children will return to Him.
The Christian Universalist Association, specifically, defines Universalism as that which teaches “that God’s essential nature is Love, that all religions contain both truth and error, that the only commandment that really matters is to love other people as oneself, and that all souls will eventually be saved and perfected as part of God’s unfailing plan.”
It goes on to explain that “Christian Universalists believe that the correct interpretation of Christianity and the Bible is not the exclusive fundamentalist view (“convert or burn”), but an inclusive view of salvation in which all people — even the sinful and unbelieving dead — will eventually find reconciliation with God by repenting of their sins and going through a transformation process, so that nobody will spend eternity in hell.”
So when I call myself a Christian Universalist, for me personally, this means that I have rooted my spiritual foundation in the Christian faith, but that I also believe in the universal salvation of all mankind, not through religious endeavors, but instead through the mere grace and love of God.
It also means that I associate with the Christian Universalist Association, and hold dear to my heart the statement of faith espoused by the Association (especially since “members are free to believe whatever they want about other issues, and to interpret our shared beliefs in their own personal way.”) This statement is, as follows :
“1. We believe in a God who is Love, Light, Truth, and Spirit, the Creator of the universe, whom we are called to seek, know, and love; and whose nature was revealed to the world in the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
2. We believe that the universal commandment is to love and serve one another as each loves oneself.
3. We believe in the law of justice by which actions generate consequences, whether to be manifested in this life or the life to come.
4. We believe in the ultimate triumph of divine mercy and grace: that no being ever created will be condemned or allowed to suffer forever, but God has arranged through a benevolent plan of learning and growth for all souls to attain salvation, reconciliation, restoration, and reunion with the Source of All Being, in the fullness of the ages.
5.We believe every person is the divine offspring of God, created in the image of the Heavenly Parent of all; and that every person is destined to be raised up from imperfection to maturity according to the pattern of the archetypal Christ, the Son of God, the Perfect Human in whose image all humanity shall be transformed.
6. We believe in miracles and mysterious spiritual phenomena, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which transcend materialistic views of reality.
7. We believe that God’s Holy Spirit has inspired numerous prophets, saints, philosophers, and mystics throughout history, in a variety of cultures and traditions; and that by reading the Bible and other great texts of spiritual and moral wisdom with a discerning mind, and meditating to connect to the Spirit within, we may all gain a greater understanding of truth, which should be applied for the betterment of ourselves and our world.”
The Christian Universalist Association traces its history back to the beginning of the Christian faith, and believes that “not only are our beliefs more authentically Christian, but at the same time we are also more open to universal spiritual truths that transcend any one religion or church tradition.”
Obviously Christian Universalism is anything but fundamentalist (the CUA actually claims Universalism is the opposite of fundamentalism), but the Christian Universalist Association isn’t so “free formed” that it should be confused with the Unitarian Universalist Association, even though they share much of their history and my faith could easily fall into both.
The main difference between the two is that the Christian Universalist Association insists on the Being of God, while belief in such a Being is not something that is declared or expected in the Unitarian Universalist Association. Nor is the belief in things such as life after death (etc) expected or declared, yet they are all things that the CUA holds evident. Don’t get me wrong, these things can believed by Unitarian Universalists, but they don’t have to be. This is can be seen in their statement of faith, or “seven principles”, which are as follows :
“1.The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
Most people today, are pretty familiar with the Unitarian Universalist Association (its not quite as unheard of as Christian Universalism), though many may not know much about its development and history.
Unitarian Universalism came out of the merge of the Christian Unitarian and Universalist churches.
Unitarianism is, basically, a rejection of the concept of the Trinity, an insistence of the unity of God as One. The original Unitarians “could not see how the deification of a human being or the simple recitation of creeds could help them to live better lives. They said that we must follow Jesus, not worship him,” and most Unitarians today would agree.
There are many strains of Christianity that do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity, and many individuals who affiliate with denominations that accept the doctrine who personally reject it (myself, a Methodist, included), and there was the American Unitarian Association, which merged with the Universalist Church of America in 1961 to form Unitarian Universalism.
Since then, the American Unitarian Association has been reborn as the American Unitarian Conference, and we have seen the formation of the Christian Universalist Association, but even with the “rebirth” of these two strains, Unitarian Universalism has continued to grow “from liberal Christian views about Jesus and human nature to a rich pluralism that includes theist and atheist, agnostic and humanist, pagan, Christian, Jew, and Buddhist”, and accepts any person of any faith on any path.
So, these two Associations, while not identical, are still compatible. And when I refer to myself as a “Christian Universalist” I am not only identifying my association with the CUA, but also taking my faith into my own hands and defining my path in my own terms, based on what I believe to be true.
I invite you to take the time to explore the links throughout this post, to better understand Christian Universalism, its beliefs, and history, as well as those of Unitarian Universalism.
The articles and explanations found therein are far more educating than my simple little overview.
And now that that’s cleared up,
(next post : A Digression of Sorts)
Hello, and welcome!
All of you souls out there who have happened to have found yourself on this page by mere boredom or curiosity – or even by accident - must be wondering who I am and why I think my thoughts are important enough to display for everyone to read….
And, to tell you, I’m really no one special, but I’ll go ahead and share a little about me anyway:
My name is Katie
and I was born on May 21, 1987 in Orlando, Florida, and raised in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, although my family and I now reside in Virginia.
I am a Christian Universalist,
the basics of which mean that I believe in the universal salvation of all mankind, and that I believe in living a life of love and compassion for all people, as I believe God instructs, and as is shown through the life and teachings of Christ.
(The following post will get into more about Christian Universalism, what it is, and what it believes - this is, again, merely an introduction.)
My faith is the biggest part of my life and of who I am - it is the deepest passion I know.
I am constantly cultivating my spirituality and my relationship with God and others by incessant reading, study, discussion, prayer, and contemplation.
I’m planning on trying to go back to school for some kind of religious studies, and I one day hope to be able to enter into some sort of interfaith/universalist kind of ministry, to which I believe my whole life has been pointing, and to which I believe myself called.
My greatest hope, though, is that my life is lived as an adequate reflection of God’s love…
I am married to the most wonderful man in the world.
(at least I think so)
I met and fell in love with Brandon in 6th grade, and our history is a long and interesting one, but here we are, 10+ years after he stole my heart, and he still hasn’t given it back - so it looks like I’m stuck. (*wink*) He’s my best friend, my soul mate, the one and only love of my life. He’s my rock star, and I’ve always been his biggest fan. He is my perfect match, my complete equal, in every way. He fulfills me in every way - intellectually, spiritually, etc, etc. Its like we’re on the same brainwave - I can’t NOT believe in soul mates when I think about it. (and our long and drawn out history,with all its little ironies and coincidences and signs from Above, lol) So I couldn’t be any happier with or more thankful for the path that God has placed before us, or for the husband that I love more than anything else in this world. He really does mean everything to me, and it really is wonderful knowing that I have a lifetime of happiness with him to look forward to.
I am also a mother.
Being a mother is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever experienced, and I know it goes without saying, but I can’t imagine my life without James. He is my pride and joy, the light of my life, the best thing his father ever gave me. And I love him, and his father, more than I could ever hope to put into words….
We’re both dying for another child (two, actually), but since we’re currently not in the position to be acting on our desire for another, any plans of pregnancy have been postponed – hopefully not for too much longer….
Its also been a dream of mine to foster children, and to adopt a child some day.
Its something I feel called to do, probably because I have so much love to give.
Other than that I’m an introverted, socially awkward (and socially anxious), yet optimistic idealist (I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs) who loves to read and write and play music, who tends to be more of a thinker than a talker, and who takes more pictures than anyone cares to look through.
Things of intellectual value stimulate me, and I appreciate nothing more than a good book or a deep discussion. In fact, I don’t often concern myself with anything that does not hold some sort of intellectual significance.
The topics which I find most interesting and stimulating include philosophy, politics/political science, ethics, history, literature, music, sociology, and religion – and it is religion that I am most passionate about, indeed, it is religion that this blog is intended to discuss.
(And I want you to know that this blog IS meant for discussion. Its not my attempt at some self-absorbed soliloquy or my way of standing on a pedestal preaching – I am hoping that this can be a collective effort, where each new posting can be an invitation to come together and converse about the topic presented – whether those involved agree with the opinions offered therein or not.)
Now I understand that there are those of you who have seen some of the information and opinions expressed in the posts that will follow in other places, through your interactions with me, and I apologize for any “double posting”. This blog represents my finally taking the time to collect those those pieces and organize them into a more cohesive, and finalized, version.
I would like to add that this blog, in its entirety, is dedicated to:
My mother, who at least appeared to be more concerned with raising us with a passion for God than in making sure we were indoctrinated in the church; who encouraged thinking outside of the religious box and the asking of questions. Her encouragement has helped me to have the confidence, and the means, to seek out the Truth for myself, rather than allow someone else to dictate their “truth” to me.
And to my grandmother, who isn’t quite as religiously enthused, but who puts up with my incessant ramblings and my insatiable passion despite her own disinterest.
And, finally, to my husband, who has supported me in every way, who encourages my religious passion, and who is right there with me in heart and spirit every step of the way. I have been truly blessed to have such a good, Godly man beside me, walking life’s road with me, loving and supporting me the way he does.
I owe everything I have, everything I am, to him.
…I love them all more than I could possibly say…
(up next: Christian Universalism?)